How did chemistry and physics acquire their separate identities, and are they on their way to losing them again? Mary Jo Nye has written a graceful account of the historical demarcation of chemistry from physics and subsequent reconvergences of the two, from Lavoisier and Dalton in th... e late eighteenth century to Robinson, Ingold, and Pauling in the mid-twentieth century.Using the notion of a disciplinary 'identity' analogous to ethnic or national identity, Nye develops a theory of the nature of disciplinary structure and change. She discusses the distinctive character of chemical language and theories and the role of national styles and traditions in building a scientific discipline. Anyone interested in the history of scientific thought will enjoy pondering with her the question of whether chemists of the mid-twentieth century suspected chemical explanation had been reduced to physical laws, just as Newtonian mechanical philosophers had envisioned in the eighteenth century.
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